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Boeing May Not Work on KC-46A in Kansas

Update – It has been reported that Boeing has called a mandatory meeting of all its Wichita employees tomorrow. It is also been reported that part of the new contract with the Machinists requires the KC-46A work to be done in Washington if the Wichita site closes.

Previously Boeing (BA) has done a great deal of their work on military and government aircraft at their facility in Wichita, KS. This has included the VC-25 Air Force One version of the 747, the KC-135 tankers and the E-4A command and control aircraft. It was assumed, especially by the Kansas Congressional delegation, that much of the work on the new KC-46A tanker would also be done at the facility.

Now word is leaking out that Boeing is planning on doing all of the necessary tanker effort at their main facility in Everett, WA. The 767 that will be converted to the tankers will be assembled there but rather then being militarized in Wichita they will remain in Washington. This, understandably, has roiled the media, the workers in Kansas and various Senators and Congressmen.

They feel that their support for Boeing to win the contract is now wasted as rather then seeing more work Boeing could be eliminating jobs and laying people off in Kansas.

Boeing has stated that until they understand fully the effects of changes in the U.S. defense budget that they won’t commit to announcing anything about the Wichita plant and their overall work structure. This may not be until later this year. It had been estimated that over 7,000 jobs will be created by the KC-46A militarization and support efforts with the idea that those jobs would be in Kansas. Now that is not guaranteed.

This may be an effect of the new contract Boeing signed with their main union that allowed them to successfully get the U.S. government to drop action against the company for opening a new facility in South Carolina. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had filed a complaint against the company stating that the only reason Boeing expanded to South Carolina was to retaliate against unions in Washington. This was dropped after the company signed a new deal with the union that promised to keep a great deal of jobs in the Northwest.

Boeing intends to use the South Carolina facility to support commercial 787 production.

If the company does not send KC-46A work to Wichita it will cause severe problems with its relations to that state’s Congressional delegation which has in the past been very supportive of Boeing. The next few months could be very interesting for the company, the U.S. aerospace industry and Kansas.

U.S. Navy Continues Orders for P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft

The U.S. Navy has been working with Boeing (BA) on building a new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the Lockheed P-3 Orion which came into service almost fifty years ago. They settled on a design based on the 737 airliner which the Navy already operates as a transport and command and control aircraft. The new P-8A Poseidon is undergoing testing and evaluation at the Paxtuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

Following up on previous orders for 8 aircraft to support testing the Navy recently awarded the first Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) batch to Boeing. This contract is worth about $1.7 billion and is for eight aircraft. The contract includes training, spares and support equipment as well as the eight aircraft.

The Navy has already ordered Long Lead Material for the third LRIP production order in September. Ultimately up to 100 of the aircraft could be built for the Navy.

The P-8 has also been sold to India in the P-8I configuration. The Southeast Asian country had originally ordered 8 of the aircraft but this spring increased that to 12. Along with Boeing’s C-17 sale it is one of the largest deals a U.S. company has made with India.

The P-8 will be equipped with new systems such as radars, other sensors and command and control systems that offer an upgrade over the P-3. The P-8 also offers range, reliability and payload improvements over the propeller driven P-3.

Photo from Iragerich’s Flickr photostream.

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With Cancellation of E-10 Air Force Moves to Modernize E-8

The US Air Force has been using the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft for almost thirty years. Originally the Air Force planned to supplement it with the new, E-10 Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A); but that program was canceled last year. The new sensor for that system was the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP RTIP) which also is to go on the Global Hawk long range UAV. As MarketWatch.com reports the Air Force is now moving to insert the MP RTIP sensor onto the E-8 airframe. A contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman to begin that process. Read more

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